Letter to the Editor: My public school taught me everything about history


My name is Noah Otte, I am a Junior here at Webster University. I have loved history ever since I was a young boy in elementary school at Bierbaum Accelerated. When I was young I had a book called “To the Best of My Ability” by the renowned historian James McPherson about the presidents of the United States. That is what started it all. From there, I simply kept delving deeper and deeper into the past and become interested in the history of our planet whether it be Ancient Egypt, the British Empire, the Civil Rights Movement, the Inquisition or something as seemingly obscure as the history of Ice Cream. I am a St. Louis native and a proud American, Missourian, Lutheran and person with disabilities. I have Asperger’s Syndrome which has always made me nervous to put myself out there. I read the most recent edition of Hayley’s House and I thought that although it made some good points, I felt I needed to mention some things I felt were important to remember.

In regards to that story I wanted to add my own experience as a student in primary school, middle school and high school learning about history.

From elementary to high school, my schools did teach us about the history of all Americans whether it be whites, African Americans, women, men, Native Americans, the Irish, the Chinese and many others.

We watched movies about MLK, Rosa Parks and the Civil Rights Movement. We learned about little known figures who are very important to American and African American history such as poet Phyllis Wheatley.

We also read a book called “Kaffir Boy” by Mark Mathabane about the experiences of a young black South African boy who deals with the appalling anti-black racism of the Apartheid regime while attempting to become a professional tennis player.

We learned about the Abolitionist Movement and the horrors of the Transatlantic slave trade. We also did indeed learn about Malcolm X and how he differed to MLK.

I also took a music class in which we learned about the contributions to music of black artists such as Marvin Gaye, Miles Davis, Charlie Parker, Louie Armstrong, Dizzy Gillespie, and Chuck Berry.

We learned about how it was African Americans who gave us Jazz, The Blues, R&B, Soul, and Rock N’Roll.

The African American contribution to history was not ignored. We also explored the horrific treatment of the Native Americans and the great Native leaders like Sitting Bull and Chief Joseph.

We watched Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee. We discussed the discrimination faced by Chinese, Japanese, Mexican, and Filipino immigrants.

In my education I must respectfully say what was described in the above article was not my experience.

I also wanted to say that I think the reasons schools often leave out things like the Black Panthers or pieces of black history is because they can only give a quick overview of American history. They don’t have time to talk about it all. As a history major I know better then most how vast the array of topics there are to teach. Also, I think that is why they are saved for specialized courses.

We shouldn’t make generalizations about all public schools and what they teach whether they be majority white, black, Hispanic, or any other race. Not all public schools ignore black history. Just because it is a majority white school doesn’t make them racist or mean they don’t care about their students of color.

It is indeed sad that a student said racism isn’t around anymore. I must concur with the author that is troubling indeed. However, not all students who come out of public schools believe this. I for one never had the impression growing up that racism did not exist.

As to Michelle Alexander’s book its conclusions have been disputed and are controversial. But I do agree the War on Drugs unfairly targets the poor and is indeed something we must look more at. The reason that was not taught in my school is again because of the limits of time as mentioned above.


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